"China Unicom, an emerging player in China's telecommunications service sector, plans to offer a mobile Internet service similar to NTT DoCoMo Inc. of Japan's i-mode.
"China Unicom may imitate i-mode, mobile data services with Internet access that offer ticket booking and other information to mobile phone users.
"We are conducting feasibility research to see how we can initiate such a mobile Internet service," said Zhang Fan, director of the mobile communications department of China Unicom.
"The company's i-mode proposal came after the narrow-band CDMA cellular phone system project seemed likely to be called off.
"NTT DoCoMo 's i-mode is a driving force behind Japan's mobile technology. The company has signed up about six million i-mode customers since February 1999.
"But, Zhang said that China Unicom may have some difficulties in duplicating i-mode's success in China, because his company's product and NTT DoCoMo's i-mode are based on different mobile networks.
"China Unicom aimed to expand the number of its wireless application protocol (WAP) pilot-project cities from 20 to 50 by the end of the year.
"China Unicom and China Mobile are both offering WAP service, which enables mobile phone users to log onto the Internet, on a trial basis.
"Time is still needed for users to surf the Internet via mobile phone, given the narrow bandwidth and lack of content support for the present," said Zhang.
"He added his company will cooperate more with Internet content providers to offer quality WAP service.
"China Unicom, about to go public on the stock markets in New York and Hong Kong, is expected to announce the final pricing of its initial public offering (IPO) soon.
"Zhang noted the company's development strategy in the near term lies in the expansion of GSM mobile network.
"China Unicom plans to spend RMB28.9 billion (US$3.48 billion) on mobile communications in 2000, expanding its network capacity by 16.46 million lines. The number of mobile phone subscribers with China Unicom is expected to grow by 8.4 million to 13.63 million this year.